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Course content

This programme provides practical, career-orientated training in social science research methods, including research design, data collection and data analysis relating to both qualitative and quantitative modes of inquiry.

Students will have the opportunity to specialise in particular methodologies and to learn more about the application of these methodologies to illuminate important issues and debates in contemporary society.

Course Details

The programme is designed to provide a fundamental grounding in both quantitative and qualitative research skills, along with the opportunity to specialise in more advanced training in quantitative research, qualitative research or in practical applications of research techniques.


Semester 1

Approaches to Social Research (20 CATS)

This module offers an introduction to the different styles of social science research as well as guidance and illustrations of how to operationalize research questions and assess them empirically. Students will be shown how to conduct systematic literature searches and how to manage empirical research projects. The module will also explore issues around the ethics of social science research as well as the connection between social science research and policy concerns. It is designed as preparation for undertaking postgraduate research and dissertation work.

Theory and Debates in Social Research (20 CATS)

This module aims to deepen students' understanding of key debates in social theory and research, providing advanced level teaching for those building upon basic knowledge and undertaking postgraduate research. It is designed to demonstrate and explore how social theory is utilised, critiqued and developed through the pursuit of social science research.

The Sources and Construction of Qualitative Data (10 CATS)

The purpose of this module is to illuminate the theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research. The module will discuss the impact of various theories on the nature and conduct of qualitative research particularly around questions of epistemology and ontology. The role of different types of interviewing in qualitative research will be utilised in order to explore the relationship between theory and methods.

The Sources and Construction of Quantitative Data (10 CATS)

The aim of the module is to provide a comprehensive overview of the theory and practice of measurement and constructing quantitative data in the social sciences. Through lectures and practical exercises, this module will provide students with relevant knowledge of secondary data sources and large datasets, their respective uses and usefulness, and their relevance for the study of contemporary social issues

Semester 2

Qualitative Data Analysis (10 CATS)

The module will provide students with an overview of different approaches to qualitative data analysis. It will include introductory training to this skill that includes such techniques as thematic analysis and discourse analysis, as well as computer assisted qualitative data analysis. It will provide the knowledge necessary for the informed use of the qualitative data analysis software package NVivo. The module gives students a base level introduction to the analytical and technical skills in qualitative data analysis appropriate to the production of a Master's dissertation and/or use of CAQDAS software for social science research purposes.

Quantitative Data Analysis: Foundational (10 CATS)

This module provides an introduction to the basics of quantitative data analysis. The module will begin with a brief review of basic univariate and bivariate statistical procedures as well as cover data manipulation techniques. The module is taught through a series of seminars and practical workshops. These two strands are interwoven within each teaching session. Please note that students may be granted an exemption from this module if they have already successfully completed a module that has the equivalent learning outcomes.

Quantitative Data Analysis: Intermediate (10 CATS)

This module advances students' confidence and knowledge in the use of SPSS. The module focuses on multivariate regression models, including the appropriate use and awareness of statistical assumptions underlying regression and the testing and refinement of such models.

Dissertation (60 CATS)

A dissertation of no more than 15,000 words on a topic relevant to social science research methods training. The thesis will involve either carrying out and reporting on a small social science research project which includes a full and considered description and discussion of the research methods employed or the discussion of a research issue or technique to a level appropriate for publication.


We offer a range of advanced modules in quantitative and qualitative research methods, for example, logistic regression, internet-based research and visual research methods. We also provide specialist modules which reflect the teaching team’s diverse research interests, from the social logic of emotional life to conflict and change in divided societies. Optional modules generally run during the Spring semester and are offered subject to sufficient student demand and staff availability. Students will be able to choose a maximum of three to four option modules (depending on whether they need to complete Quantitative Data Analysis: Foundational). Please note that it is unlikely that all the following modules will be available for 2017/8. Please check with the Programme Director for queries about specific modules.

  • Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
  • Social Science Research Online
  • Visual Research Methods
  • Longitudinal Analysis
  • Advanced Quantitative Research Methods
  • Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland: New Sociological Research
  • Researching Emotions and Social Life
  • University Research and Civil Society Organisations

Visit the MRes/Diploma in Social Science Research page on the Queen’s University Belfast website for more details!




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